30 fire crews attend fire at Upton Heath nature reserve

Tops Day Nurseries win Best Dorset Environmental Business Award

Caption: Area damaged by fire and sand lizard on affected area at Upton Heath © Simon Cripps

Poole, Wildlife | Posted: Tuesday, August 7th, 2018 at 10:38 am | return to news

30 fire crews attend fire at Upton Heath nature reserve

A fire at Upton Heath nature reserve near Corfe Mullen was attended to by 30 fire crews (roughly 100 firefighters) from Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service on Sunday 5 August.

Tops Day Nurseries win Best Dorset Environmental Business Award

Caption: Area damaged by fire and sand lizard on affected area at Upton Heath © Simon Cripps

Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) is starting a clean-up operation following the fire at Upton Heath nature reserve, which has destroyed three hectares of heathland. Although the cause of the fire, which started at 3pm, is unknown, it is thought to have been either started deliberately or by careless behaviour. It spread very quickly in the dry conditions.

Upton Heath, which is part of the Great Heath Living Landscape Project, is one of the largest areas of heathland remaining in Dorset and is recognised internationally for the rarity of its habitat and wildlife, such as the nightjar and the Dartford warbler.

It is home to all six native reptile species including the nationally rare smooth snake and sand lizard. A week before the fire, two nightjar chicks were ringed in the area – unable to fly, it is almost certain they would not have survived.

In 2011 a large fire destroyed just under 100 hectares of heathland on Upton Heath. Work to restore the area has been ongoing since, so a fire such as this one is a massive step back for wildlife and conservationists.

DWT’s East Dorset Living Landscapes and Living Seas Manager, Nicki Brunt said, “We are so saddened to see this wonderful nature reserve become a victim to fire once again. The three hectares affected were at the corner of the reserve, near the A35, and it’s with thanks to the fire crews who brought it under control quickly that there wasn’t a worse outcome for wildlife and the people living close-by. We will be spending the coming days and weeks making sure the fire doesn’t re-light, assessing the damage to wildlife, and starting the recovery process. We know from experience that it will take years, if not decades for the habitat to recover.”

Whether this fire was started deliberately or by negligence, DWT desperately urges the public to be mindful of the potential devastation that can be caused by a small spark, for example from a discarded cigarette, on dry heathland at this time of year.

“If you see any suspicious behaviour which could lead to a fire on one of our nature reserves, or if you spot a fire, please call 999 immediately,” added Nicki.

To become part of the Heath Watch team visit ww.dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk/heathwatch for more information.

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